This week’s view: She Cranes deserve a lot more
Posted Sunday, December 8 2013 at 02:00
Greatest of our time. Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela, a South African liberation icon, united the country (and indeed a continent) again in the run-up to bringing the 2010 Fifa World Cup to Africa.
Ugandan sport has had its fair share of hair-raising moments this year, but all pale in comparison to that of the national netball team motoring thousands of kilometres from Kampala to Blantyre, Malawi, to play in the Africa Netball Championship.
The She Cranes beat the odds to finish third in the tournament. Sadly, their acts of valour embodied in them shaking off burnout to give as good as they got didn’t procure them that much-coveted berth at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Only the top two countries from the Africa Netball Championship were pencilled in to hold down qualification slots.
Sifting through the subtexts of lack that invariably fashioned an ending with a near miss, I couldn’t help but wonder what might have been had the She Cranes not been forced to run on empty. We definitely would have gotten more than the terse plot that bounced off the polar opposites of ‘good’ at one end and ‘not good enough’ at the other.
As a sporting nation, we have built a reputation for flirting with disaster. We perpetually find ourselves in a state of terminal decline because we are as obdurate as they come. This perhaps explains why lightning almost struck twice for the She Cranes. After pulling out the begging bowel, the She Cranes came within a hair’s breadth of missing out on playing in the Nations Cup tournament in Southeast Asia. It took a last-ditch effort to secure the travelling party boarding passes to Singapore.
This is the first netball tournament outside Africa that the She Cranes have featured in since, mark this, 1979. Small wonder, She Cranes are currently unranked in the world! They haven’t played enough international matches to be indexed!
While in Singapore, the She Cranes have piled one cameo on the back of another. They didn’t get to Singapore in time to face the United States of America, and as such had to contend with a heartrending forfeiture. Not to worry, though, the girls have since put in dominant shifts against the likes of Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Singapore and Sri Lanka. There has been a physicality about their performances that has seen them boss a tournament that has been held since 2006.
She Cranes’ tale of defiance in the face of adversity is yet another timely reminder that the traditional modalities of comparative advantage continue to challenge the faculties of our knowledge. Why shun a sport where you could possibly lord it over your adversaries? The aforementioned could yet be the most perplexing decision this side of the year. It beggars belief really! Someone had better wake up and smell the coffee before the indefatigably formidable netball players the country keeps churning out lose interest.
Madiba magic needed to give world sport its ‘soul’ back
He may have described himself as “never an outstanding boxer” in his autobiographical work, Long Walk to Freedom, but truth be told Nelson Mandela packed quite a punch!
The sheer strength of his metaphorical punch snapped the shackles of apartheid. The clench of his fist strengthened his resolve. It moved him to believe, as he iconically wrote in his memoirs, that “walls do not a prison make”. Boxing, Mandela added in his autobiography, helped lose himself in something that wasn’t a struggle.
Boxing wasn’t close to being a struggle because Mandela viewed the sport much as a science and less as something brutal, even violent. Science, in essence, rids not just boxing but this whole thing called sport of the vengeance it has come to embody. As members of the sports fraternity, we can pay homage to Mandela by ensuring that the disciplines we gravitate toward are, well, a sweet science of sorts.
When boxed into the corner, instead of doing something sinister to gain an unfair advantage, how about clinging onto that potent “walls do not a prison make” line…The greatest weapon within the possession of a human being is their mind.
Sports personalities are anything but an exception to the rule.
Mandela taught this to us, first as a nondescript boxer, and later as a fan. Sporting the cloak of a 16th man, Mandela induced the South African black majority to throw its weight behind a white-dominated Springboks side during the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The departed elder statesman squarely used rugby as a vehicle to turn a country scarred by a deep racial divide into a Rainbow Ration.
The liberation icon united the country (and indeed a continent) again in the run-up to bringing the 2010 World Cup to Africa.
Sadly, the unitary wholeness and fair play that Mandela’s gestures accentuated have been lost on many a sports person.
Cases of match fixing, spot fixing, refereeing rackets and other forms of shenanigans (such as bickering, back stabbing, etc) are rife. Sticking out like a sore thumb, they show that sport has lost its mind and soul! A prisoner in its own body, sport is well and truly on the road to perdition! Your columnist only hopes that Mandela’s passing impels concerned parties to do their utmost to erase this sad reflection.
Sport could do with a mind, body and above all soul. A Madiba one at that.
What we now know....
Thanks to the woeful second half display during the otherwise comfortable 3-0 win over Eritrea in the ongoing Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup, we know that Uganda is struggling to play a pressing game.